The quest for something interesting and different to read came about this weekend in the prodigious form of Ayn Rand’s revolutionary book We The Living. Rand is better known for her book, The Fountainhead, but I found this one at the library and thought I’d give it a try. Every review I’ve read defines the book as a great depressing bore, with hardly a reviewer finishing it…but so far in my endeavor to read I’ve found it fascinating. Her literary style and use of imagery is wondrous, with dialogue that may be dated (written in 1936!) yet relevant. Plus, I really think this woman was of great intelligence as a writer and philosopher and many of her views can be applied to our state of living today.
“We the Living portrays the impact of the Russian Revolution on three human beings who tried to shape their own destinies: Kira, who wanted to be a builder, and the two men who loved her – Leo, an aristocrat, and Andrei, a Communist. Kira demanded the right to live her own life. But she was living in a totalitarian state.” – from the book cover.
Ayn Rand calls this book as close to an autobiography that she’ll ever write. She experienced the Russian Revolution herself as a young woman, and though the main character Kira, is loosely based on Ayn herself, in her ideas and thoughts, her convictions, and her values, the family situation and other parts of the story are fictional. The accounts of the hard times that the Communist regime pinned on the Russian people are explained with depth and sympathy. Ayn’s dilemma in her own life was that she didn’t wish to conform, she wished to be a writer. (The character Kira wished to build things, like bridges, a metaphor itself it seems.)
“Too many writers declare that they never succeed in expressing fully what they wished to express and that their work is only some sort of approximation. It is a viewpoint for which I have never had any sympathy and which I consider excusable only when it is voiced by beginners, since no one is born with any kind of “talent’ and, therefore, every skill has to be acquired. Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made. It was mainly in regard to We The Living, my first novel (and, progressively less, in regard to my work preceding The Fountainhead), that I had felt that my means were inadequate to my purpose and that I had not said what I wanted to say as well as I wished. Now, I am startled to discover how well I did say it.”
I love that she says: Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made.
Got to love a writer with her cat! Image at left is Ayn Rand with Thunderbird.